Two of my best friends, an adorable newly married couple that are now expecting their first child together, opened up an independent bookshop in December, and I have been spoiled. Oh yes, I have been very, very spoiled.
These poor friends of mine have been showered with ARCs, or Advance Reading Copies. For those who don’t know what they are, ARCs are copies of books that a publisher distributes in the months before a book’s release date to bookstores, book reviewers, libraries, etc., so that by the time the book is released it can be properly promoted and reviewed and the publishers can get an idea of how popular the title will be and how many they should print for the first release.
My friends, Chris and Gina, they WANT to be able to read and review all of these ARCs for their store, of course they do, but they just don’t have the time. I have graciously offered to help (snicker snicker) and here are some of the recent ARCs I’ve had my hands on:
On the bottom is NOS4A2, a horror novel by Joe Hill, (yep, Stephen King’s son, so I swoon), in the middle is Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson (literary fiction), and the one on top is Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee.
I started reading NOS4A2 as soon as I got it, actually I begged Chris to give it to me as soon as he could, and he rushed to read it first while I chomped his heels for him to hurry along, but then after a few days of forcing myself to keep picking up the book, I realized that despite how great it is, I just couldn’t read it. Seriously, NOS4A2 is amazing and I love it, but I am not feeling it right now.
I got in a funk. A reading rut. Do you ever have that happen to you, when you have a hard time getting through books no matter how great you think they are, you just don’t really feel like going on with them anymore? I hate it when it happens. It makes me nervous and I am quite obviously less relaxed in these times, because reading to me is as important as sleeping to my mental wellbeing. So, I’m saying, these past two weeks have been hard because I haven’t been using reading to lift me up.
Then I thought, well, I could just read one of these Bobcat stories. Just one story. I can get through one story. So I picked up Rebecca Lee’s book and read the first story, and then the second story. Then I put Elise to bed and I read the next story and the next and so on and so forth until I had finished the collection in about three hours, and I was practically panting in the end, wanting more beautiful words.
This morning I picked up Antonia Lively and read nearly half of it in a sitting. I just want more and more beautiful words, I thought to myself – and there, I realized it – there was my problem.
I love horror. I love action and thrillers and apocalyptic nightmares, all of those terrifying and pulse quickening things. I have been binging on them, no, gorging on them for the last few months, for the last year in fact. I had completely immersed myself in STORIES and stopped seeking out THE WORDS.
Do I need a break from stories? Oh, no. And I am not in any way saying that Joe Hill’s book, with it’s fantastic story, isn’t any good – quite the contrary. I guess I just needed something different before diving back into the nightmare. A breath of fresh air in the form of that sort of lyrical writing that is prose reading like poetry. I wanted to read something that I could hold in my hands and know was slaved over, sweated over, expertly crafted. I knew when I was reading the stories that Rebecca Lee had shed blood over every word she chose, and seeing THAT kind of passion, after missing that intensity for so long, just left me feeling MEH.
So, if you ever find yourself in a reading rut, maybe this is a way to get yourself out of it. Try something new, or just go back to reading something old, something that you used to enjoy and cherish your time with. Go down deep in the words on the pages and swim around down there with those most mysterious fish, and when you come up again you will see things differently. You’ll appreciate the stories more, at any rate.